Sitting across the table from Michael Feinberg, known by his friends simply as “Fichael,” I was taken aback by how modest he was. For a boy who has been called “Jesus” by his peers, both for the long hair he retired last May, as well as his skill on the basketball court, Feinberg’s attitude towards the game is incredibly calm and humble. His play style is similarly unselfish. After years of going to the park to play with his dad and older brother, he joined his church’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) team in third grade. He says that his coach was very team oriented and taught the players to always pass the ball if someone was open. Feinberg thinks that this heavily impacted his playing style even years later, saying, “I’m not really a shoot first kind of player. I mean if someone is more open than me, then I want to pass them the ball. Unless we’re equally open, or I have a lot of space, I’m not just going to shoot.”
Though Feinberg played a lot of basketball in elementary school, he made it clear to me that he was far from being the star of his team. “When I first began playing for my CYO team, I developed good fundamentals quickly, but I still had a long way to go in terms of improving my basketball IQ and being a more confident player,” he said. It wasn’t until middle school that Feinberg really started to hone his skills.
Throughout middle school, Feinberg played a lot more basketball with his brother’s older friends, usually in the park. It was then, he says, that he really started to improve. In seventh grade, he joined his school’s team, and once he came to Stuyvesant, he made the JV basketball team in his freshman year. The following season, he was one of only three sophomores to make the Varsity team, the Runnin’ Rebels, where Coach Philip Fisher helped him take his game to the next level. Feinberg said, “Fisher really helped me to start thinking more about Basketball IQ. You know, protecting the ball, preventing turnovers, and taking smarter shots.” Even while coming off of the bench, he played in every game of the season, averaging six points per game (PPG). Feinberg said that the highlight of his Stuyvesant career also came during this season. In a game against Murray Bergtraum High School, Feinberg scored 19 points off the bench. He made five three-pointers, including a buzzer beater to end the third quarter.
As a junior, Feinberg took on a bigger role on the team. Now a starter, he led the Runnin’ Rebels in scoring, averaging 18.9 PPG. However, the team finished the regular season with a record of just 1-13. Hoping for a stronger season, Feinberg looked forward to his senior season. That year, Feinberg was made one of the team captains, a job that he took on with pride. Not wanting to be too hard on the younger players, he elected to lead simply by playing hard on the court. Senior and co-captain Tobias Lange said, “Michael is the type of leader who leads by example. He won’t really yell at you or get in your face, but he just plays hard and everyone follows.”
Feinberg said the highlight of his senior season came during the team’s first time facing Murray Bergtraum High School. The Runnin’ Rebels started strong, and towards the end of the game, they led by 19 points. But Bergtraum rallied, bringing the score to 48-44. With the shot clock winding down, Feinberg was able to make a tough fadeaway three-pointer in the corner, increasing the gap and sealing a Stuyvesant victory. During his senior season, he once again led the team in scoring, and the Runnin’ Rebels finished with an 8-8 record, making the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although the team didn’t make it past the first round, Feinberg says that just making the playoffs was a great way to end his Stuyvesant basketball career. His teammates have credited him for making major contributions to the successful season. Lange said, “Ever since junior year, he’s been the star and faces the most defensive pressure. It doesn’t dissuade him from attacking and playing like himself.”
Senior George Kalantzopoulos agreed, saying, “Michael has just been that calming presence on the court, because we know what he is capable of doing.”
While Feinberg is not sure in what capacity he will play basketball in the future, he is certain that he will definitely continue with it. He suggests that wherever he ends up at college, it is likely he will try to play club basketball, but he’s not sure if he’s good enough to make a competitive team in any of the NCAA Divisions. No matter what, Feinberg is sure he will look back at his Stuyvesant career with pride.